J.S. Bach Cello Suites for Solo Piano Recording

$14.00

On the heels of the recent recording – “breathtaking in its sheer precision and vitality” (Pianist magazine) – of her own transcription for four-hands piano of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, pianist Eleonor Bindman has now completed a new project: a solo piano transcription and recording of all six of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello. These pieces have been transcribed many times for instruments from trombone to charango, starting with the lute version of Suite No. 5 made by Bach himself. But previous piano versions, particularly in the 19th century, tended toward “improvements” ranging from added harmonies to newly composed accompaniments. Bindman’s goal was to adhere as closely to the original works as possible, making a simple and sincere attempt to bring a new sonority to some of Bach’s most beautiful conceptions. The new recording will be released on the Grand Piano label, a subsidiary of Naxos, on October 9.

Each of the cello suites begins with a prelude, followed by a series of movements named after dances but not always especially danceable; Bach treated these forms with great flexibility. Thus Bindman’s immersion in the cello suites was partially a process of discovering the organic personality of each movement, distinct from the other examples of that dance in the other suites. In some cases the mechanics of the piano affected her interpretation: for example, she tended toward slightly faster tempos than a cellist would be inclined to take. Tonalities also proved to be an important consideration: the E-flat key of Suite No. 4, for example, is notably idiomatic for the piano – doubly so on Bindman’s richly resonant Bösendorfer – despite being a difficult key for the work’s original instrument. A video of Bindman playing the Prelude from Suite No. 1 can be seen here.
Among Bindman’s motivations was the desire to make the music accessible to amateur pianists, for whom these single-voice masterpieces can now be an experience of the beauty and structure of Bach’s music without the problems of coordination that can make even the simplest two-part inventions a daunting challenge. Fortuitously, the current pandemic-imposed limitations on the fine arts and human contact make this part of her purpose even more significant. As she says:

“I am especially happy about introducing these new arrangements to amateur pianists. As a teacher I have found working with adults particularly gratifying, because they are actively looking for ways to grow and participate and enjoy their lives. I want to give those pianists access to this great music without the bar being so high they feel unequal to it. These pieces certainly make excellent technical exercises, but they can also shift the attention from mechanics to cultivating tone and expression, to training the ear. The practice of listening to oneself is the only true path to musicianship. If this arrangement helps someone along this path, my goal will be accomplished.”

Another of Bindman’s recent projects was the publication of a piano book called Stepping Stones to Bach – 24 intermediate piano arrangements of the Baroque master’s most famous tunes – that included three movements from the cello suites and proved to be a stepping stone to the transcription of the entire set. Bach would probably have approved; as shown by his Well-Tempered Clavier, the purposes of music-making and technical studies can often overlap, so a project with a foot in both worlds can boast a good pedigree.

“Bach himself regularly transcribed his own and other composers’ music and created different instrumental versions of the same piece. This transcribing practice has persisted and is still very much alive. … The resulting musical statement may be a faithful reproduction …, a transformation beyond recognition or something in between. Regardless of the outcome, the original source is of such exceptional depth and appeal that for the past three centuries it attracted a steady stream of pilgrims, ready to sacrifice their time and energy for the joy of communion.”

Explore the Bach Cello Suites for Solo Piano Project Page

Tracks:

CD 1
    CELLO SUITE NO. 1 IN G MAJOR, BWV 1007
  1. I. Prelude
  2. II. Allemande
  3. III. Courante
  4. IV. Sarabande
  5. V. Menuets I–II
  6. VI. Gigue
  7. CELLO SUITE NO. 2 IN D MINOR, BWV 1008
  8. I. Prelude
  9. III. Allemande
  10. III. Courante
  11. IV. Sarabande
  12. V. Menuets I–II
  13. VI. Gigue
  14. CELLO SUITE NO. 3 IN C MAJOR, BWV 1009
  15. I. Prelude
  16. II. Allemande
  17. III. Courante
  18. IV. Sarabande
  19. V. Bourrées I–II
  20. VI. Gigue
CD 2
    CELLO SUITE NO. 4 IN E FLAT MAJOR, BWV 1010
  1. I. Prelude
  2. II. Allemande
  3. III. Courante
  4. IV. Sarabande
  5. V. Bourrées I–II
  6. VI. Gigue
  7. CELLO SUITE NO. 5 IN C MINOR, BWV 1011
  8. I. Prelude
  9. II. Allemande
  10. III. Courante
  11. IV. Sarabande
  12. V. Gavottes I–II
  13. VI. Gigue
  14. CELLO SUITE NO. 6 IN D MAJOR, BWV 1012
  15. I. Prelude
  16. II. Allemande
  17. III. Courante
  18. IV. Sarabande
  19. V. Gavottes I–II
  20. VI. Gigue

Liner Notes:

The genius of J.S. Bach is recognised and revered by everyone who is musically educated. His output, studied by the greatest composers and the youngest apprentices alike, has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration, imitation and renewal. One common method of renewal is through transcription. As a matter of fact Bach himself regularly transcribed his own and other composers’ music and created different instrumental versions of the same piece. This transcribing practice has persisted and is still very much alive, as evidenced by many current recordings, including this one. Approaches can be as diverse as Bach’s body of work, depending on the form of the original composition, the designated instrumentation and the goal of the arranger. The resulting musical statement may be a faithful reproduction (my personal preference), a transformation beyond recognition or something in between. Regardless of the outcome, the original source is of such exceptional depth and appeal that for the past three centuries it attracted a steady stream of pilgrims, ready to sacrifice their time and energy for the joy of communion… Read more on the Brandenburg Duets Project page

Reviews:

“The Six Solo Cello Suites are some of the most celebrated and much-loved works in the classical repertoire, and they continue to fascinate and inspire performers and audiences alike. In this brand new transcription for solo piano, Eleonor Bindman pays tribute to this music’s enduring allure. … The transcription offers scope for some adventurous interpretation, particularly in the wonderfully playful pairs of Minuets, Bourrées and Gavottes. … Like the works included in her ‘Stepping Stones to Bach’, Eleonor has provided pianists with yet more repertoire to explore, and her elegantly, meticulous transcriptions shine a new light on this wonderful music while also remaining true to the original.” —Frances Wilson, The Cross-Eyed Pianist “Her skillfully wrought arrangements… [treat] the solo cello lines straight, and… you get Bach’s text served up with sensitivity and taste… Bindman’s well-considered tempos address the music’s dance origins. …her Preludes and Sarabandes sing out well” —Jed Distler, ClassicsToday “Prepare to be surprised when you listen to the new 2-CD release of Eleonor Bindman playing her piano arrangements of Bach’s Cello Suites. Ms. Bindman’s arrangements faithfully include the notes you will find in the original Bach, but have become works that are new, unique, and completely satisfying on their own terms.” Barry Lenson, Classical Archive “Quite simply (and irrespective of the particular novelty factor here) this is Bach playing of the highest order. … Listening to Bindman’s recording, I was immediately struck by the mellifluous beauty and sensitivity of her renditions of these iconic cello works; that she has transcribed them so well and plays them with such assurance, grace and finesse makes this 2CD set an easy choice for my Recording of the Month.” —Andrew Eales, Pianodao “…an ideal way for amateur pianists to explore the music in domestic surroundings. These Cello Suite transcriptions are completely different, Bindman adding sparingly to the texture of the melodic-line, a very conscious decision, having found previous arrangements only convincing her that the Suites didn’t need any ‘improvement’. … Her performances are nicely shaped, and without affectation, tempos always well chosen… The New York engineers offer an ideal clarity, and Bindman’s programme notes are highly informative.” —David Denton, David's Review Corner “Bindman maintains the majesty of Bach’s music, via both her transcription and her convincing command of the keyboard. Whether you’re a purist or a Bach devotee, this satisfying 2-CD set is worthy of a thoughtful listen.” —Sharna Searle, The Whole Note “Bach’s music is great no matter who plays it on what. Bindman takes him quite literally, transcribing in the register he wrote in, mostly, and clearly with enjoyment. Her tempos are sometimes faster than a cellist’s fingers might find practical, but her musical sense is excellent. She observes most of the written repeats” —David W Moore, American Record Guide